• There are budgetary problems with making DC a state. It doesn’t have much of a business or financial base, outside of the government. The people who actually live in DC are pretty low income – high-income people mostly live outside the city.

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post TurboTax Behind Campaign Against Free Tax Filing

    2014-04-15 07:36:00View | Delete

    Not that Intuit is innocent of lobbying, but Turbo Tax does have some kind of free federal and state filing for simple returns. Of course they want to capture your business if it turns out your return is more complicated. Even if you buy their Standard package ($30) it’s much cheaper than a human preparer. H&R Block apparently has similar software. Are they lobbying also?

    Turbo Tax especially has been working on these things for years. Would a new federal software program be likely to be better? (have you already forgotten the Obamacare rollout?) This is likely an area where the free market does work better than a socialized system.

  • skeptonomist commented on the diary post Documentary Video: WACO Rules of Engagement by jbade.

    2014-04-12 08:52:12View | Delete

    How does Reagan get the blame for emptying psychiatric hospitals – this was mainly a result of the development of tranquilizers and other drugs. Reagan probably favored private prisons but this is a different matter, as are tax cuts. The Waco mentality is now probably more dangerous on the local than the federal level. Every [...]

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post Come Saturday Morning: A Dangerous “Reform”

    2014-04-12 08:07:08View | Delete

    Is anybody really under the illusion that SS numbers are “secure”? If somebody really wants your number, he can get it. The real issue is convenience. Now, if somebody wants to steal SS benefits he may have to go in in person and maybe face actual skeptical people. But if everything is online, scammers will figure out ways to do it in bulk, with little personal risk. (or they will be able to do it more)

  • I agree with the take that Obamacare was not the huge progressive victory as Krugman and other liberals have been spinning. But there are other major dynamics involved. It was above all a huge victory for insurance companies, so yes, that part of the 1% won. But it was also a victory for the millions of low-income people and others such as those with pre-existing conditions who will be able to get insurance. But somebody has to pay for the subsidies, and that will be those above the subsidy levels. For those just above the subsidies the costs of insurance are very high and many of them will not be able to afford insurance. Will all these people, and those on employment-supplied insurance whose costs will probably also go up, turn against Obamacare and government programs in general? So far few opionions seem to have been changed – presumably there is still high support for a public option. But there is a very definite division between winners and losers in the general population – not a good situation.

    No such problem arose with Medicare, nor does single-payer in Canada and other places seem to have set the lower classes (or peons, those not in the 1%) against each other.

  • This is probably a correct decision, if we are actually at war. The responsibility lies with Congress – the Constitution gives them the responsibility to decide whether there is a state of war, and they turned it over to the President. Congress should be deciding whether the threat from a ragtag collection of “terrorists” in the Middle East justifies a state of war and all the abrogations of the Constitution which go with it. This is not a decision which can be made by an individual judge.

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post How Many Selected the Correct Plan on the Exchange?

    2014-04-03 12:34:57View | Delete

    I’ve looked at a lot of states using calculators (available many places on line) and there is considerable similarity, at least among the lower-priced options. Somebody above the subsidy level is going to pay mostly 8-10% of gross income for premiums, and then most of the expense of actual care (through copays and deductible) up to the out-of-pocket maximum, which is usually $6350. It’s not obvious that there are any really “wrong” choices of insurance, but if you don’t get subsidies you won’t be getting any cheap coverage either. The functional subsidy level ends at around $30k for singles and goes up to as much as $95k for families and at that level you can count on spending at least 10% of gross income if you’re healthy and up from there to as much as 30%. Many people will just not be able to afford the premiums and will just opt not to buy insurance, and then will have to pay a penalty. This is mainly where the choice comes in for many non-affluent people.

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post Grading Obamacare on a Curve

    2014-04-02 15:32:35View | Delete

    Yes, the people wanted single-payer (Medicare, which is universally popular) or at least a “public option”. And what did they get? Judged on the basis of what people wanted – and is known to work very well in other countries and for seniors in the US – and what they got the ACA must get a very low grade.

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post Grading Obamacare on a Curve

    2014-04-02 15:28:24View | Delete

    It should reduce bankruptcies, at least among those who actually sign up. This is because of the out-of-pocket limit.

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post Virginians Split on Pot Legalization

    2014-03-31 11:33:15View | Delete

    What’s the point of legalizing “small” amounts of marijuana? Are people supposed to get it only in these amounts by mail order? From where? If there are actual local dealers they will be handling “large” amounts which will be illegal and there will be law-enforcement problems. Also, please drop the hypocrisy of “medical” marijuana – you know this just opens the door for general use.

    If pot use is to be legalized, do it right so the trade can be legal, regulated and taxed.

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post One Tweet Which Shows Why Obamacare Has Been a Hard Sell

    2014-03-31 09:23:46View | Delete

    Actually for a $30k income the penalty next year would be more like $200 (1% of income less threshold of $10k). Of course that goes up the year after. They say that exemptions from the penalty will be easy to come by.

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post One Tweet Which Shows Why Obamacare Has Been a Hard Sell

    2014-03-31 09:16:26View | Delete

    In fact for a young, healthy, single person Obamacare is a bad deal – better advertising wouldn’t solve the problem. It improves things a great deal for some people, for example those with a pre-existing condition, but somebody has to pay for this. Cost of insurance is still extremely high for those just above the subsidy limits.

    The right way to spread risk is to pay for universal health care with taxes, not complicated gimmicks and choices. And the taxes must be progressive. People are altruistic in principle – most approve of the general idea of universal health care but they object when they get the bill. However, they don’t really mind Social Security and Medicare taxes – the money is going to people, not insurance companies.

  • There are differences between Democrats and Republicans, if you look closely. One big one is in Supreme Court appointees and presumably in lower-court appointees. The division between the four liberals and the four conservatives on the SC is very stark, for whatever reasons, and the swing justice is a Republican appointee. Except where the NRA is involved, Democratic Senators usually approve liberal appointments.

    The main criterion for selecting the Republican justices was evidently their friendliness to big business – this figures into most of their important decisions. Social matters are less important. Over the years SC decisions have been very, very important in social matters and now they are getting important in politics and economics.

  • Guess what – people who are unalterably opposed to marijuana legalization are not likely to try smoking it. Guess what again – people tend to be conformists – their opinions on anything are strongly influenced by those around them.

    So smoking pot may not alter people’s brain cells to make them more tolerate. It might, but that would require different kinds of data.

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post Putin Signs Treaty Making Crimea Part Of Russia

    2014-03-18 11:38:58View | Delete

    What’s incredible about the “impotence” of the US in the Ukraine? Did the USSR try to prevent the US from invading Grenada or Panama? Did they send in troops because of the Bay of Pigs? The Crimea is not just in Russia’s sphere, it was part of Russia until the breakup of the USSR. The US and the West are actually encroaching much more on Russia’s sphere than the USSR ever did on the West, but in the Ukraine/Crimea Russia was pushed to its limit.

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post Crimea Votes For Secession

    2014-03-17 13:33:18View | Delete

    Good post. The basic issues are actually fairly simple but not well characterized by the editors and pundits in the MSM – or even many “liberal” bloggers. Ukraine is not and never has been a unified nation and the way the West and Russia are trying to influence it it won’t be with the current largely accidental borders.

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post Markets Are Not Emergent Phenomena

    2014-03-16 11:09:05View | Delete

    I’m not sure that this post has demonstrated that markets are or are not emergent phenomena, but I’m also not sure why anyone interested in economics should care. Markets do seem to arise spontaneously. The first question we might ask about markets is, do they always lead to a socially desirable result? If not, how can they be modified or replaced? Are markets stable over time, or do they usually trend towards monopoly and accumulation of wealth? These and other questions can be addressed with empirical scientific methods, without knowing too much about the principles of emergent phenomena.

    Economics as applied to public policy usually turns out not to have much input from empirical science. Most economists operate in some idealistic utopian framework like “free markets” in the US or Marxism in some other countries (not many of them left), and they assume that they know the answers to some of the important question. Economists can’t set the rules of motivation which operate in economics, but they are not too interested in finding out what they really are.

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post In Defense of Repetition in the Media

    2014-03-14 12:17:11View | Delete

    Presumably Silver’s conclusions about polls were derived from actual analysis of poll data over time. He needs to repeat his valid conclusions as necessary until they are accepted. What a lot of pundits do is start from a set of prejudices and look for ways to illustrate them with current events, or interviews with cab drivers (for example). Their conclusion that the latest news confirms the prejudices is often a violent non-sequitur. Or sometimes they just apply boiler-plate “ideological” solutions to actual problems, with no critical thought as to whether this might really work – or has worked in the past.

  • skeptonomist commented on the blog post It Is Still All About the Economy, Jobs, and Dysfunction

    2014-03-13 14:16:56View | Delete

    Is the person who made the graph red-blue-yellow color-blind?

  • The policy of the US since the breakup of the USSR has consistently been to extend its military influence eastward into the former Eastern bloc countries and even into the new countries of the former Russian Empire. We try to sign them up for NATO, put star wars stuff there, etc. Given the militarism we now have with the perpetual war against terrorism, this would be hard to stop on our end. Russia’s reaction is hardly outrageous – most other countries and most politicians would do the same in their place, and this does not make Putin a megalomaniac.

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